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Arsenal show steel to defeat 10-man City

Manchester City 0 Arsenal 3

Nasri 21, Song 66, Bendtner 88

It took a long time to bring their numerical advantage fully to bear, but Arsenal eventually inflicted Manchester City‘s heaviest home defeat since early 2007 with something to spare. The home side played almost the entire game with ten men after Dedryk Boyata’s early dismissal, but battled hard before finally succumbing in the final 25 minutes. Arsenal’s win propels them into second place in the Premier League, albeit still five points behind leaders Chelsea.

Arsenal had succumbed 4-2 in this fixture last season, and entered this game having failed to defeat the trio of City, Chelsea and Manchester United in any of their last nine meetings, so it was vital that they secure some kind of positive result, for their psychological well-being as much as a need to stay in touch at the top of the table.

Arsène Wenger made three changes from the side which thumped Shakhtar Donetsk last Tuesday. Denilson stepped in for the suspended Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna returned from injury in place of Emmanuel Eboué, while Tomáš Rosický gave way to Andrey Arshavin.

City started brightly, twice creating openings down Arsenal’s left flank in the first four minutes. Łukasz Fabiański did well to snare David Silva‘s close-range effort after great work from Carlos Tevez, while Sagna made a timely interception from Micah Richards‘ teasing centre.

Dedryk Boyata's day was a short one, as he saw red with barely four minutes gone

But, almost before it had properly begun, the shape of the match changed in an instant. Cesc Fàbregas played a defence-splitting ball for Marouane Chamakh, eliciting a desperate lunge from Boyata. The City defender got nowhere near the ball, and referee Mark Clattenburg had no option but to send him off for a clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity.

A game which had already been billed as a defining moment for both sides immediately became niggly. Fàbregas found himself on the receiving end of robust tackles from Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry, while both Denilson and Alex Song responded as the visitors refused to be bullied.

Nonetheless, Arsenal were struggling to make their man advantage count. The tireless Carlos Tevez repeatedly had their defence at full stretch, and twice Micah Richards had space to maraud down the right as Arshavin and Gaël Clichy went AWOL. In particular, Johan Djourou looked very much like a player making only his 16th Premier League start in the last three-and-a-bit seasons, lacking a yard in both his legs and his mind.

Samir Nasri chipped in with a goal and an assist (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Other than Djourou sending a free header wastefully over, Arsenal struggled to create clear opportunities as City’s reorganised defence held firm. But midway through the half the visitors finally broke the deadlock. Samir Nasri played a neat one-two with Arshavin, eluded a ball-watching Barry and clipped the ball past the advancing Joe Hart for his seventh goal in as many games.

City continued to press forward, offering more than enough threat to keep Arsenal on their toes, with Denilson, Fàbregas, Song and Djouoru all finding their way into Clattenburg’s book before half-time.

Five minutes before the interval, though, Vincent Kompany slid in on Fàbregas in the box for a clear penalty. The Arsenal captain dusted himself down to take the spot-kick himself, but Hart dived full-length to his left to make an excellent stop. It was the third time (out of nine) Arsenal have failed to convert a penalty so far this season.

Arsenal started the second half much as they ended the first: slightly hesitant and lacking consistent menace. City boss Roberto Mancini sent on Emmanuel Adebayor in place of Tevez as City put the Londoners on the back foot. Silva brought another fine save from Fabiański, and soon after Adebayor headed over under pressure from the Polish keeper.

But again Arsenal gradually began to reassert control over the game. With Denilson and Song strong in front of the back four, Nasri and Fàbregas prodded and probed and started to stretch City’s tiring defence. On 66 minutes, Fàbregas sent a penetrative pass into the box for the hard-working Marouane Chamakh, and although it was cut out the loose ball rolled invitingly to Song, who lashed it into the roof of the net.

Nicklas Bendtner opened his 2010/11 account with a fine late goal (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

City were visibly deflated by the second goal, and as the home fans started to head for the exits both sides were content to play out the final quarter of the game, but not before Arsenal substitutes Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner made their presence felt. Walcott terrified the City back line with his pace and directness. And Bendtner, sent clear by Nasri, made no mistake with a precise slanted finish two minutes from time.

While rarely at their fluid best, this was a tough, gritty performance by Arsenal of the type which the team has often struggled to produce against top sides in recent years. Two straight wins have steadied the ship after a run which saw them gain just one point from three games prior to the international break. And a first clean sheet in 16 away games (in all competitions) will be no less welcome for the fact that it came against ten men.

With several key players now returning – or on the point of returning – from injury, Arsenal have every chance of building on this new-found momentum. Fàbregas is still feeling his way back after missing a full month, but he still set the tempo for much of Arsenal’s attacking play. 85 minutes at full match speed will have done him a power of good. And Nasri continues to develop as both a creative and a goalscoring threat. He completed 65 passes in the City half yesterday, the second-highest total by any Premier League player so far this season, and his tightrope dribble down the touchline to set up Bendtner’s late goal summed up yet another industrious performance by the 23-year old French international.

Arsène Wenger was understandably elated with the win:

It was important to get a win in a big place to strengthen the belief of the squad and continue our march forward. What I think we did today [we did with] intelligence and overall the needed performance to play against ten men.

He also singled out both Nasri and the increasingly impressive Lukasz Fabiański for individual praise:

He [Nasri] is becoming more efficient. I think he has become stronger physically and you judge a player with his numbers. Today he had a goal and an assist so that’s what you want from players who have a lot of talent like he has. He is quite a complete player because he can run with the ball, he is quick and he is a clinical finisher now. I believe we have a great player in him now.

From game to game he [Fabiański] shows what we see in training. Sometimes in our job you have to be steady and fight against opinions. It’s easier for you when you know the player has the talent and I believe he has the talent.

Next up for Arsenal is the fourth round Carling Cup trip to Newcastle United on Wednesday evening, before hosting bottom of the table West Ham on Saturday. On the same weekend last season, Arsenal travelled to West Ham and were pegged back after leading 2-0. A repeat of yesterday’s gritty, focussed showing is required to ensure that does not happen again.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

16 Responses to Arsenal show steel to defeat 10-man City

  1. kelsey says:

    Thanks for your comments on our blog.

  2. K-TR7 says:

    Fair assessment Tim.nasri is growing well and he deserves the plaudits.the number of times he made a mockery of the trio of city LBs was fun to watch.

    • Tim says:

      Nasri’s really slotting in well now. I’ve seen some comments comparing him to Pires in terms of his scoring and creative contribution – if Samir can turn into anything like the player Bob was, he will be outstanding.

      With Theo back in contention, Wenger faces a challenge who exactly to start across midfield – only five of Cesc, Wilshere, Song, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott and Rosicky can start, and hopefully Ramsey will work his way back in too. It’s a nice problem to have!

  3. alvinbeo says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog!

  4. Loose Cannon says:

    Players are coming back now, which is great. Bendtner scored with first chance…With ppl fit, the attack looks very promising.

    Tough away day at Newcastle though, never fancied St James’s Parl to be honest…Lets hope the boys show similar steel.

    • Tim says:

      Attack and midfield both look fantastic if we can keep all/most players fit.

      Newcastle will be tough, but I’m expecting Wenger to field a half-strength side with enough experience to give us a good chance. It will be a great test for the youngsters who do play.

  5. SharkeySure says:

    Another good read. I like this blog.

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  7. Hi Tim. Cracking read this. I just quoted you in an article I just wrote about Arsenal and their current situation, I hope that’s ok!

  8. Hey thanks for commenting on my first post!
    I have to say Fabianski had a solid game and looked good. Also, I’m loving how much Song pushes up from his defensive midfield role a lot more.

    • Tim says:

      While it’s obviously far too soon to proclaim Fabianski as a world-class keeper, he is clearly growing in confidence and deserves to retain the starting spot on his current form. (Who’d have thought we’d ever say that?)

      I agree about Song. I don’t subscribe to the view held by many others that he should just stick to his defensive duties. It does no good to pigeon-hole a player, not least because it makes us predictable as a team. I’m fine with Song venturing forward occasionally – as long as we are disciplined enough that someone else plugs the gap he leaves behind, as Jack often does – because other teams don’t expect it and he will continue to pop up in good positions like he did on Sunday for his goal. If he plays to his strengths and doesn’t start trying to spray 50-yard passes everywhere, then this extra dimension can only help our attacking threat.

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